M. Ghaynetdin, a Kazan literary historian and critic, has edited and transcribed into Cyrillic-script Tatar a previously little-known manuscript by the well-known reformist theologian and mufti ‘Alimjan Barudi (1857-1921), describing Barudi’s travels as mufti in the White-controlled Kazakh steppe in 1919 during the Russian civil war. Ghaynetdin does not offer specifics, but his edition is evidently based on one of Barudi’s works that has come down to us as a unique 70 folio manuscript housed at Kazan University Library. This manuscript is catalogued under the title Yul yazmalarï [Travel Writings] (inventory number 1682T) in Al’bert Fatkhi’s catalogue of manuscripts at Kazan University, published in 1962.
The first 42 pages consist of Ghaynetdin’s introduction and are divided into two sections. The first contains extensive biographical information on Barudi and on the Jadid current in which he was so prominent (pp. 3-24). The second section (pp. 24-42) addresses the work’s political and religious background. Barudi’s treatise is an important historical document for a number of reasons. First, as a political document it provides a first-hand account of the political predicament of the Orenburg Muftiate as the city of Ufa repeatedly changed hands between the Bolsheviks and their opponents in 1918 and 1919. Barudi undertook his journey to the Kazakh steppe in August 1919, leaving part of the staff in Ufa, under the Qazi Riza al-Din Fakhr al-Din, and taking part of the staff with him to the Kazakh steppe, ostensibly to study to condition of Islam among the Kazakhs, but also to enable the Muftiate’s to keep its options open with whatever faction might prevail in the civil war. Another motivation was to assure the Muftiate’s bureaucratic control over the Kazakh steppe, a goal that it in fact achieved under Soviet rule until the Muftiate’s closure in 1936. Secondly, as a religious document, or rather as a source for the Islamic history of the Kazakh steppe, Barudi’s memoirs offer a last glimpse at the high-water mark of Islamic institutions among the Kazakhs during the Tsarist era.
In part Barudi’s memoirs follow the lines that defined local Islamic historiography in imperial Russia, tracing the institutional history of the mosques, madrasas, imams, and mudarrises of the major cities he visited. These include Cheliabinsk, Troitsk, Kustanai, Mavliutovo, and Petropavlovsk (or Qïzïlyar in Turkic sources). He devotes particular attention to the history of each of Petropavlovsk’s nine mosques and mahallas, revealing a city that in its institutional structures appeared to duplicate those of Semipalatinsk, with its separate ‘Tatar’ (Nughay) and ‘Sart’ mosques and its Kazakh mahallas. He also devotes considerable attention to the state of Islamic education and knowledge among the Kazakhs. In this regard, the fact that Barudi reveals himself to be generally impressed by the Kazakhs’ religious zeal and commitment corresponds to the conclusions of other first-hand observations of Kazakhs by Tatar scholars before 1917. At the same time, Barudi reveals the widespread presence of hostility to Jadidism not so much among the Kazakhs, but among the Tatar scholars in the major commercial centres such as Cheliabinsk, Troitsk and Petropavlosk.
Regrettably, Ghaynetdin provides very little textological information on the manuscript, and his edition does not meet the standards of a scholarly text edition. At the same time the edition is intended for a broad, non-scholarly audience. So while some aspects of Ghaynetdin’s editing work are less than might be desired, he nevertheless has performed a great service by making this important work available to a larger audience.